“How are you here?” I asked Cups in surprise. We had crossed paths the day before at Devil’s Backbone Brewery, but unlike the two thru-hikers we met there, T and I kept hiking a few more miles after our beers. We wanted the following day into Waynesboro to be as short as possible.
“Oh, we hitched from the brewery, bartender gave us a ride.”
I’m sure he could read the judgment on my sweaty, dirt-stained face so he quickly explained that he was allowing himself 50miles of yellow blazing on his way to Maine.
Now I’m typically not one to judge. Ok, ok, you got me. I’m a human so naturally I judge everything. When T and I started this journey though, I didn’t see myself as a purist. I didn’t even know that term existed as a category for thru-hikers. But it’s definitely what we are. I don’t even want to slack pack because I feel like that’s cheating somehow.
When we were at Wood’s Hole, everyone had to say one thing they were thankful for. I distinctly remember one guy saying he was thankful for the freedom of not being a Purist. Ouch dude. I didn’t understand at the time why I was slightly offended by his comment, but I get it now. It’s because I am one, a Purist, and every time I meet someone who is skipping a section here or yellow blazing there, I can’t help it. It sort of pisses me off.
Why do I care what other people do? – I ask myself this constantly. And I think I’ve figured out why. It’s because they are going to the same place I am, but without doing the same amount of work. They are receiving the same recognition, the same AT patch, but skipping the major challenges of the trail. I hated climbing up Three Ridges, but I did it. The roller coaster was a challenge, but I can’t imagine skipping it simply because it looks hard on AWOL’s guide. How can you call yourself a thru-hiker if you jump off and hitch every section where the trail gets tough?
HYOH is the common motto of the AT – or any thru hike for that matter. But I feel like some hikers are starting to use it as an excuse to do whatever they want. Let’s revisit that phrase once more though. Hike your own hike. Notice that the word Hike is mentioned not once, but twice. That would indicate to me that you should be hiking, not hitching. Hike however you want – 2 miles a day, 35 miles a day, in a dress, in nothing at all, but you still best be hiking.
Now I know that people are suffering injuries, illnesses, family troubles, etc. – I’ve gone through three all on this journey so far and I’m only halfway to Maine. We all want to get to Katahdin before Baxter closes. But when each of these obstacles has happened to me, my reaction hasn’t been to skip any of the trail. It’s just not something I can do and still consider myself a true thru-hiker at the end.
So yea, I guess I’m a Purist – but I’m proud to be one. White blazin’ is my style, it’s what I’m here for, and all I can do is encourage others to really hike their own hike – no matter how long it takes.
Related reading: What is the definition of a thru-hike?
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